After making it through the maelstrom of his dementia in ‘Mania,’ Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) has returned to Chicago with a renewed sense of purpose and, more importantly, clarity. Boss puts up the various political maneuverings of ‘The Conversation’ as the calm before the real storm that seems to be growing on the horizon.
For the majority of the series, Meredith (Connie Nielsen) has existed as a kind of nonentity, a reminder of Kane’s past, and the tumultuous road that brought him to his incredibly long term in office. In fact, beyond Meredith’s dealings with McGantry (Dan Travanti), the only thing it appeared the two had in common was a mutual disdain/disappointment concerning their daughter, Emma (Hannah Ware). Now, although it was fraught with tension and some uncomfortably candid dinner conversation, Kane’s sentimental desire to reestablish a link with his wife and daughter seems on the verge of reaching the halfway point. And all it took was the wayward shot of an assassin and a massive riot to do the trick.
Given the apparent success of Kane’s experimental treatment, the clarity of his thoughts sees him more willing to recognize the severity of his condition, and the need for someone who, as he refers to it, can act as a “mirror.” To that end, the mayor enlists Meredith to shadow him and ensure the actions he makes are those of the old Tom Kane, and not the new one prone to bouts of sentimentality and open to suggestion. With Meredith’s competent handling of Chicago while the city was awash in crisis, there’s clearly no better candidate for the position.
Moreover, Meredith seems ready to (maybe even relish) handing McGantry the bad news that his long-term plans regarding the redevelopment of Lennox Gardens are not merely put on hold, but likely squashed altogether – as a consolation, she at least tells him it’s time to release his holdings while he can still get a good deal. If nothing else, the meeting with McGantry illustrates just how well suited the Kanes are at making enemies.
While Meredith is off handling “Babe,” her husband is forced to deal with the ramifications of all the promises he made and efforts he undertook while under the damaging influence of his dementia, as well as the unrelenting speculation by the press of just where the mayor was during Chicago’s time of crisis. This sets Kane’s staff to redacting the mayor’s files after receiving subpoenas pertaining to the corruption charges laid down on a multitude of government officials. States Attorney Doyle (John Hoogenakker), hoping to get back at Kane for leaking the name of Meredith’s alleged shooter (not to mention countless other quarrelsome points he may have with the mayor) requests documents heading back nearly two decades – for the sake of thoroughness, of course.
At the same time, Kane decides to use the shooting of a looter during the riots as a means by which he can deflect the press regarding his whereabouts for the past 48 hours. Pulling the race card, and appearing sympathetic toward the young man’s mother earns the mayor enough of a reprieve that he can set up Superintendent Royczyk (Chelcie Ross) to take the fall, and further remove the mayor from the discussion of the riots, and his absence. Once Kane’s out-of-context conversation with Royczyk leaks to the press, there’s little he can do but ask for the Royczyk’s resignation.
Between McGantry and Royczyk, the Kanes are firing on all cylinders in terms of guaranteeing retribution.
Elsewhere, doomed romance is in the air, as Zajac (Jeff Hephner), fresh off his near career-ending scandal, manages to first convince the States Attorney’s office to drop the charges against the protesters and get what will likely be a ruinous bedmate. Meanwhile, Kitty (Kathleen Robertson) and Sam (Troy Garity) are once again discussing business over Chinese food, but instead of intimacy, Sam’s looking for more information on the Rosebud bombshell she dropped on him last week. Sam comes up mostly empty-handed in that regard – chasing a story Kitty’s not sure she wants him to catch – but manages to make a new friend in Royczyk following his forced resignation. Kitty, on the other hand, meets with Alderman Ross (James Vincent Meredith) and his ward bosses about buying votes in Cook County for Walsh (Amy Morton) – an effort Walsh looks to repay by leaving Kitty her hotel key as a not-so-subtle invitation. Kitty, to her credit, actually turns someone’s romantic invitation down.
For the most part, ‘The Conversation’ manages to sift through the pieces left behind by ‘Mania’ and ‘Backflash,’ and deals with them largely by throwing them in the air. This is one of those episodes that primarily functions as a means by which various plot points are tossed up and left hanging until the season’s end finds ways to deal with them. As it stands now, there is a great deal of information floating around for people to use against the mayor, and having that spread out against such a disparate group helps make the pending conclusion to season 2 something more akin to what Boss does so well, but seemingly forgets far too often: The show is stronger when it sticks to being a simple, sordid political drama than when it focuses too much on the burden of producing heavy metaphorical allusions.
On the bright side, it looks as though there is plenty of sordidness on the horizon, with Miller closing in on the death of Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan) and investigating the scoop he received from his new friend Royczyk. Meanwhile, Emma is headed for a unique heartbreak after becoming friendly with her father’s assistant, Ian Todd (Jonathan Groff).
With that many balls in the air, Boss certainly has its work cut out for it as the series heads to the close of season 2.
Boss continues next Friday with ‘Consequence’ @9pm on Starz.